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Friday, February 8, 2013

Euthanasia and Disability

On Wednesday I gave a talk to students at King's University College at Western Ontario University. King's has interesting course offerrings in disability studies. Spearheaded by Pamela Cushing, an anthropologist on the faculty, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with students. The students were engaged and alert when I spoke. They also asked cogent questions that made me think. I spoke about the mainstream media representation of disability. I tried to make four general points about the media and how skewed disability is portrayed.1. Disability rights and civil rights are one in the same. A point rarely made. 2. Feel good stories about disability abound that are inherently demeaning. 3. Disability rights violations are the norm. 4. People without a disability are swayed by a grossly distorted notion of what disability means socially, politically and economically.

I used two examples from this blog to illustrate my point: my analysis of Purple Feather in 2011 and the recent double euthansia of deaf-blind twins in Belgium. I hope I made an impression on the students because they are our future. It is my hope the generation of students currently attending university will have a far more nuanced view of disability. Academic programs that focus on disability are desperately needed in Canada and the United States. The fact that King's has such a program is heartening. There is hope for the future if the students I met are an indication of how disability is perceived.

9 comments:

E Fischer said...

He's real folks, there is a picture to prove it!
Seriously though, it strikes me as odd that you need to be an educator in this realm, even stand as an example of "favorable" disability. Understand, I think no one is better adapted (pun?) for such a role but at the same time it feels that this is the tip of the iceberg when it should be old hat. A daunting future awaits us.

Melanie Suzanne Gerber said...

Bill, you speak volumes on the plight of the disabled. It would be great if you could give this talk in our neck of the woods. I would love to attend

william Peace said...

Eric, I despise having my picture taken. But what middle aged man could say no to a photo when he is surrounded by smart young women? There is a stunning lack of academics with a disability in the USA. Each class I teach at some point I ask have the students ever had a paralyzed professor. Not once has a student answered yes. This is a very real problem.
Melanie, The problem with giving talks is what I have to say is exactly what people do not want to hear. Talks about disability are always "inspiring" or "feel good" stories. In advocating for disability rights as civil rights my voice appeals to few. In fact I sometimes feel when I talk that I am preaching to the choir.

Middle Child said...

Wonderful - once a long time ago Don was involved in a program of going to the schools and giving a talk along with three others - one a very high level Quad (ventilator dependant), Don C5/C6 and a Para - they had made a video of what happened andhow life was now and what they missed the most - it went well because the three of them were able to talk about providing access, equipment etc with the aim to living - not some fanciful feel good stuff - But the high level one - Tom said he missed being able to hold his little boys (I have no doubt that those boys were more loved than many) and Don just said he really missed the feeling of grass beneath his feet - we Aussies often go barefoot at home in summer - The para unsure of his name sorry was only 19 and he missed being above to keep up with his mates on a night out (that of course resonated with the kids when were teens) but the way it was done was...a. what not to do to avoid damaging the spine but b. how to cope when you are injured - how people might treat you etc... we have a politician in South Australia who is Paraplegic - and she is pretty vocal - another Bad Cripple ...good on you and good to see you surrounded people willing to learn.

william Peace said...

Middle Child, Giving talks to secondary schools and students in disability studies at university can be enlightening. I refrain from talking to secondary school students. The "story" teachers want me to tell is one of an individual "overcoming" disability. At university I can offer a strident critique of mainstream depictions of disability and foster a social model of disability.

Middle Child said...

Usually that is the case regarding schools - but this was organised between the three men and an older man who happened to be a very compassionate and understanding man. He remains a friend to this day. He was given a grant to do the short film he followed the lead that Don and the others set - It only ran in our country town about 5 high schools - I know what you mean about the other...I know Don would not have participated in feel good stuff - he was not one to suffer fools gladly as mentioned no doubt - he could be very forthright but he always was.

Becky said...

Well said. Point well said that I try to share in my opportunties -- in my opinion we don't overcome but we incorporate a disability into our life and move forward.

william Peace said...

MiddleChild, I am sure Don did a great job in secondary schools. All it takes is one open minded person to allow a different message to be delivered.
Becky, When I hear the "overcome" in reference to disability[ this is what I think: people can overcome being bipedal, having sight, or hearing. Turn overcome around and it makes no sense.

Erminia Cavins said...

“Disability rights and civil rights are one in the same.” - I agree with this! When a person is deprived of his disability rights and benefits, it is like he's being deprived of his right to live. Even though they're not as efficient as “normal” people are, they still deserve our respect and help. They might be different, but they are still human beings, with people dependent on them to survive. If they're members of the SSA, they must receive the compensation that they deserve. :)

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